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Moroccan-Style Pumpkin (With Lentils)

Moroccan-Style Pumpkin (With Lentils)

The pumpkin — or those squashes whose non-English names translate as “pumpkin” — is a staple the world over, turned into substantial dishes celebrated for their sweetness and density. So-called sugar pumpkins, which are smaller and more flavorful than anything you might carve, are the best for cooking and available even in supermarkets. But you can tackle the big boys too.

This recipe uses cubes of pumpkin flesh. Admittedly, getting at the good stuff is the tricky part. And of course you can use any orange-fleshed squash in any pumpkin recipe. But given the season, let’s assume you’re working with a pumpkin. Start just as if you were carving a jack-o’-lantern: cut a circle around the stem, then pull up on the stem and discard it. Using the cavity as a handle, peel the pumpkin with a sturdy vegetable peeler. Yes, it will take a while.

Then cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds with an ice cream scoop or heavy spoon. You can discard the seeds or roast them. (More on that in a moment.) Cut or scrape off any excess string and cut the pumpkin into approximately 1-inch cubes. (A 4-pound pumpkin will yield about 8 cups of cubes.)

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Yield:4 to 6 servings

  • 2tablespoons olive oil, plus a little more if necessary
  • 1pound boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes and trimmed of fat
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1large or 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 6cups 1-inch cubes pumpkin flesh
  • 2teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2fresh bay leaves
  • ½cup dry white wine
  • 2cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock
  • cups chopped ripe tomatoes with juices (canned are fine)
  • 1cup lentils
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (6 servings)

393 calories; 17 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 8 grams monounsaturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 33 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 6 grams sugars; 25 grams protein; 770 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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  1. In a heavy pot with a lid, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium-high heat. When hot, add the lamb; sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until browned on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes total, stirring as needed. Remove the pieces of lamb to a plate and reduce the heat to medium.

  2. If the pan is dry, add more oil. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 minutes. Add pumpkin, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon and cumin; cook until pumpkin begins to soften, about 10 minutes.

  3. Add bay leaves, wine, stock and tomatoes, and return lamb to the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for at least 45 minutes on medium-low, partly covered. Stir occasionally; add more stock if needed.

  4. Add lentils, and bring the mixture back to a boil. Adjust heat a simmer. Continue to cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender and the liquid is thick, about 30 minutes. (If at any point it threatens to become too thick, add a bit of stock or water.) Taste, and adjust the seasoning. Remove the bay leaves, and garnish with cilantro before serving.


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Cooking Notes

It’s a Bittman recipe. He encourages people to play with his recipes. Maybe uselessness is in the eye of the beholder. And maybe it’s not necessary to be mean about it.

I used butternut squash and doubled everything but the squash. Seasonings were onion, a lot of garlic, a good sized chunk of fresh ginger, a few cloves, about 10 crushed cardamon pods, two cinnamon sticks, a tsp. of cumin,

and 3 bay leaves. Sublime.

Mark mentions in his Kitchen Matrix cookbook that you can make this recipe vegetarian by substituting more pumpkin for the lamb. He says that a 4-pound pumpkin will yield about 8 cups of cubes. He recommends cutting the pumpkin just as if you were carving a jack-o’-lantern: cut a circle around the stem, then pull up on the stem and discard it. Using the cavity as a handle, peel the pumpkin with a sturdy vegetable peeler. Then cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds.

If you want to chop up a pumpkin, microwave it for 30 seconds or so – much easier to deal with after that.

I made this vegetarian by substituting black beans for the lamb, and using vegetable stock. Skipped the work of peeling the squash by using organic kabocha pumpkin. Yum.

Loved this recipe with three tweaks:

1) cooking time — prepare to let it go an additional hour for the lentils to get softer

2) sauce felt thin so I added 1/4 stick of unsalted butter right at the end. Made it smoother.

3) 1/2 cup of currants, dried figs or apricots makes it even better. You can also give it a spicy/tangy profile with some hot pickled jalapenos as garnish (hubby likes his with some sriracha on top).

I found that the lentils don’t get soft if you put them in with the tomatoes. Instead, I’ve put the tomatoes in last and letting it cook for a little longer. Acid doesn’t help dry lentils and beans cook.

Use yellow or red lentils which complement squashes much better than brown. This is especially true if you want the subtle sweetness of this spice mix to sneak through. Savory and sweet with lamb, yum!

Like you, I omitted the lamb – and added eggplant. I did miss the texture of meat, but the flavors blended very well. I also used butternut squash instead of pumpkin, but that’s an easy sub that’s even suggested in the recipe. Used a Ras el Hanout spice blend (similar to the individual spices in the recipe), staying with the Moroccan theme. Wildly successful! Served over rice.

Didn’t do the lamb and added tofu, a dash of cloves and preserved lemon – amazing vegan dish!

Had a giant hunk of pumpkin and some lovely tomatoes in my CSA box so this was the perfect recipe. Used black beluga lentils. Omitted lamb to make it vegan, added a tablespoon of white miso paste with the spices to compensate for the umami of the lamb. Doubled the cumin. Added the lentils after 30 min of squash simmering, they took 45 more minutes. Absolutely sublime on its own, but also very nice with a scoop of brown rice if you feel like it.

Added 1/4 tsp of cayenne with the dry spices to, er, “kick it up a notch”.

This was EXCELLENT and a class above most (vegetarian) stew recipes.

Yes, even without the lamb it was fantastic so vegetarians do not be discouraged. I added about 10 oz of pressed tofu and a handful of seitan nugget things to this in place of the lamb, a cup or two of chopped cabbage and I probably doubled the cumin but I always do. Otherwise, just followed the recipe as written with a little bit of a shorter cooking time. So good. Can’t wait to make it again!

I made this in the instant pot, followed step 1, and part of step 2 on sautee mode. Once the onions were softened, I added the spices and garlic for a few minutes, then all of the rest of the ingredients, stirred well, and cooked on high pressure for 11 minutes. I allowed a natural pressure release for 10 mins then did the quick pressure release. It came out really well!

Whatever you do don’t use french lentils. They never got soft despite cooking forever and adding so much stock. I wish they had specified which lentils to use!

For a vegetarian pumpkin lentil stew, I added a hefty dollop of homemade harissa paste, and followed one reader’s suggestion to add a tablespoon of white miso for umami. Also added potato and carrot for more texture. No problem with the brown lentils cooking quite soft. Delicious today, and I’m sure it’ll be even better in the days to come. Am waiting for the Moroccan honey whole wheat loaf to rise, with memories of lentil stew and warm bread in a Moroccan restaurant in my past…

I too made this vegetarian, skipped the lamb and added celery, carrot, miso paste and a good handful of Ras el Hanout spice blend. Lovely with a dollop of yogurt and naan bread.

Like others mentioned, I added more stock and cooked for 20 min longer to get the lentils right. This was a great stew! Perfect for fall & leftover Halloween pumpkins.

Lovely recipe and many helpful comments. I’ll add mine: Because struggling to carve and peel a pumpkin is so difficult for me, I halve them, scrap the seeds out with an ice cream scoop, and roast the halves 15 minutes or so with cut-side-down on a parchment lined cookie sheet and then use tongs to pull the skin from the pulp. The cooked, chopped pumpkin pieces may dissolve in your pot, but they will do that anyway by the time the lentils are cooked. The taste is still yummy.

Summary of community notes on subbing for lamp to make this veg: more pumpkin; tofu; tofu+seitan+chopped cabbage+2x cumin; tofu+a dash of cloves+preserved lemon; eggplant; black beans + vegetable stock; white miso paste (to compensate for the umami of the lamb) + double the cumin

I don’t think the lentils will ever get tender enough by following the recipe. Perhaps it is better to cook separately and add? To utilize the inevitable fond in the pan, I added broth to blend into the sauce before adding the squash. If using a small pumpkin, no need to peel it. The skin will be tender and edible. You will likely need 2x more broth than the recipe calls for. Not sure I’ll make this again. Too disappointing for the effort involved.

I am going to make this with ground lamb as that was on sale this week. Thanks for all the notes on spices and lentils. I will double the spice except for cinnamon and use red lentils.

Delicious! I topped with a cilantro lime salad dressing and a little crème fraiche – very complimentary.

Oh, and I used red kuri squash—my first. Really nice texture and flavor.

I used 1.25# skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into 1” pieces then followed the recipe exactly. The only thing better than the smells that filled the house was the flavor—excellent!

Wow, this is a winner! I only used a small amount of lamb but the hint of flavor it added was really. Followed some of the other suggestions, including upping the spices: doubled the cumin and turmeric and added fresh ginger. Added some chopped dried plums at the same time as the lentils. Finished with a bit of harissa. Flavorful and comforting.

Oh and I’m not sure why some had to cook it longer for the lentils to get soft but mine were super soft even before the timer was up. Make sure you’re using orange or yellow lentils and not split peas!

I just made a couple tweaks based on comments and my knowledge of Moroccan cuisine. Added a good pinch of saffron to the spice mixture. Also added some heat but not cayenne (not very flavorful). I used Aleppo pepper. Wonderful!

Would roasting the pumpkin add any additional flavor? Or would it just turn into a gloppy mess? Thanks in advance – can’t wait to try out the recipe for my pod tonight.

No need to roast the pumpkin. In this recipe the pumpkin is cooked on the stovetop together with spices, wine, stock, tomatoes, etc. I see no benefit to roasting it separately. It wouldn’t marry with all the flavors well enough then. It’s the kind of dish where everything cooks together, more or less like a stew. And it comes out amazing!

Double spices except for cinnamon

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